1. (Philosophy) a Hindu system of philosophy aiming at the mystical union of the self with the Supreme Being in a state of complete awareness and tranquillity through certain physical and mental exercises.
2. (Hinduism) a Hindu system of philosophy aiming at the mystical union of the self with the Supreme Being in a state of complete awareness and tranquillity through certain physical and mental exercises.
3. (Philosophy) any method by which such awareness and tranquillity are attained, esp a course of related exercises and postures designed to promote physical and spiritual wellbeing. See Astanga yoga, Bikram yoga, hatha yoga, power yoga, raja yoga, Sivananda yoga.
Qigong (pronounced “chee-gung,” also spelled chi kung) is translated from the Chinese to mean “energy cultivation” or “working with the life energy.” Qigong is an ancient Chinese system of postures, exercises, breathing techniques, and meditations. Its techniques are designed to improve and enhance the body’s qi. According to traditional Chinese philosophy, qi is the fundamental life energy responsible for health and vitality.
Qigong may be used as a daily routine to increase overall health and well-being, as well as for disease prevention and longevity. It can be used to increase energy and reduce stress. In China, qigong is used in conjunction with other medical therapies for many chronic conditions, including asthma, allergies, AIDS, cancer, headaches, hypertension, depression, mental illness, strokes, heart disease, and obesity.
Qigong is presently being used in Hong Kong to relieve depression and improve the overall psychological and social well-being of elderly people with chronic physical illnesses.
T’ai chi is a Chinese exercise system that uses slow, smooth body movements to achieve a state of relaxation of both body and mind.
As a system of physical exercise used to improve and maintain health, t’ai chi can be helpful in achieving a state of physical and mental relaxation while also strengthening the cardiovascular and immune systems.
As a very slow and gentle form of moving, tai chi has virtually no side effects. However, if a person has any doubts about the conditions of his or her joints, vertebrae, or heart, a physician should be consulted.
Developed originally in China as a self-defense strategy, or martial art, tai chi—the “supreme ultimate fist”—is practiced in modern times primarily as a gentle exercise technique. Described as “meditation in motion,” tai chi consists of a standing person performing a series of postures or bodily movements in a slow and graceful manner, with each movement flowing without pause to the next. According to Chinese legend, the technique was created by a Taoist monk who was inspired as he watched a crane and a snake do battle. Impressed by the ‘snake’s ability to subtly and swiftly avoid the bird’s thrusts, he devised a series of self-defense techniques that do not involve meeting the opponent’s force with force, but rather stress evading the blow; causing the opponent’s own momentum to work against him.
Tai chi is an ancient form of exercise, about 2,000 years old, that at one point had over 100 separate movements or postures. In current practice, there are two popular versions, of 18 and 37 movements respectively. The fact that in China 10 million people practice some type of t’ai chi daily suggests that it is the one of the most popular forms of exercise in the world. In the United States, t’ai chi is learned in classes in which students (or “players,” as they are called in China) wear loose, comfortable clothing and either go barefoot or wear only socks or soft shoes on the feet. In China, t’ai chi is almost always practiced outdoors at dawn, and ideally near trees. Unlike other martial arts, t’ai chi is not competitive. Classes usually begin with a few minutes of standing meditation to calm the mind and gather energy. Following warm-up exercises, students are taught the basics of a particular form or posture. Learning forms is not easy, and it takes some time to master what looks like a simple position. Properly done postures are done in a relaxed, artful, and linked way, with the circular and rhythmic movements of one position flowing seamlessly into the next.
While strict attention to body position is critical, proper breathing is considered to be equally important. Just as movements are slow and continuous and without strain, breathing should be effortless yet deep. Finally, both mental and physical balance is considered essential to t’ai chi. The experienced practitioner of t’ai chi maintains perfect body balance throughout the exercise series.
Altogether, the five essential qualities of t’ai chi are:
• Slowness. To develop awareness.
• Lightness. To make movements flow.
• Balance. To prevent body strain.
• Calmness. To maintain continuity.
• Clarity. To focus the mind.